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Durant s return looms large heading into potential clincher

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — Let us dismiss the tasty-yet-faulty comparison folks will try to make regarding Game 5 and Kevin Durant and the fate of the Warriors in these NBA Finals: In 1970, when Knicks center Willis Reed famously limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for Game 7, he only hit two jumpers and was done, too gimpy to go any further. The Warriors, starved for points against a toothy Raptors defense, will require plenty more than that from Durant before he’s done. Back then, it was winner-take-all, New York vs. L.A. Durant and the Warriors are trailing 3-1 and face elimination at Scotiabank Arena. They’re staring down a far deeper and darker tunnel. This is the stark reality for a would-be savior and his recuperating calf and the desperate two-time defending champions. Durant was upgraded to questionable for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), which means it's likely he’ll at least be on the floor. Whether he stays long enough to break a sweat or plays well enough to make the Raptors perspire is the real issue. Perhaps never before has an injury to a superstar of this magnitude been this mysterious – and perhaps costly – in the history of The Finals. Remember, with Reed, the Knicks won at the end. Maybe there's more in common with Magic Johnson pulling a hamstring in 1989 during Game 1, but again, Magic was finished for the series, and so were the Lakers, swept by the Pistons. Durant is trying to return and in the process squelch the innuendo swirling about his recovery and also trigger a historic comeback. Can he pull this off after not playing since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), and practicing for the first time only Sunday? It was a practice, but only in the tamest sense. Durant joined his teammates and took part after the media was hustled off the court, leaving no outside witnesses or sneaky TMZ footage. The Warriors, this time of year, only conduct light drills. And it was over within an hour. To recap: Durant is supposed to step into an intense basketball game after missing a month, and battle a Toronto defense led by Kawhi Leonard, and thwart a championship bid by a team and city bracing for a maddening celebration around midnight, and … rescue the Warriors? OK, then. “I think it’s pretty easy to realize we obviously miss him out there and he’s propelled us to two championships in two years,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “So it would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.” If it sounds like the Warriors are so stretched for answers and solutions that they’re banking on Durant being close to normal after a lengthy layoff, well … maybe they are. When you’re facing elimination, there’s really no other choice. And the Warriors haven’t been able to solve the Raptors without him. Yet Durant has set himself a high bar. Before his injury, which occurred in the conference semifinals against Houston, he was on another level, nearly galactic. He averaged 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in 11 games and was a finalist for everyone’s “best player in the playoffs" honors with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since then Leonard, the postseason leader in points, and rebounds, and minutes, has yanked that praise for himself. The Raptors, as a result, are heavy favorites to lift the trophy. Durant may not be 100 percent, leaving what he can possibly do an open question: Will he be more of a decoy than a legitimate offensive threat? And on defense, how can the Warriors cover for him, since the Raptors will surely try to exploit the situation by running Durant through screens? Without Durant, the scoring burden had to be carried by Thompson and Steph Curry, and while both have done fairly well, the Warriors have had little margin for error. Whenever Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or DeMarcus Cousins failed to lend support for Thompson and Curry, the results have been disastrous for Golden State. Coach Steve Kerr feels Durant’s presence will be enough to cause a ripple effect that influences what both teams do when he’s on the floor. “The game plan changes if Kevin is out there, or if he’s not,” Kerr said. “So you adapt accordingly. It changes matchups, it changes rotations, all that stuff.” It’ll be a surprise if Durant’s return causes issues within the Warriors and the system that was tweaked in his absence. Although they’ve been without him for nine games, he did play three seasons with the club, so there shouldn’t be any adjustment problems. Quite the contrary, says Curry. “We’ll be able to adjust in transition pretty smoothly,” said Curry. “He’s been in plenty of Finals and has played well. No matter what the percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective.” It’s always tricky to play doctor and determine how much time Durant should’ve missed, although that never deters anyone from doing so. Taking it a step further, while none of his teammates or coaches publicly questioned the depths of Durant’s injury, dealing with the daily dose of “is he or isn’t he?” became tiring to some. They all suspect that if Durant could’ve played, he would. What possible motive would encourage him to stay out longer than necessary? To show everyone how much the Warriors need him? That seems a stretch for someone who craves a championship. Possibly not his pending free agency either; if anything Durant would get bonus points for playing through pain and would have all summer to recover in the event of re-injuring the calf, which is not considered career-threatening. Injured players have no obligation to speak to the media, and Durant hasn’t, with his silence only feeding speculation. “I feel for Kevin,” Thompson said. “I know what type of competitor he is and we obviously miss him dearly. But whether it’s tomorrow or Game 6, we just have to do everything in our power to help him get back. He will be very welcome, I’ll say that much. Kevin’s (injury) is serious and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.” The stretchy shooting range, the high release of a shot that’s nearly impossible to block or discourage, the energy and determination and ability to make plays in tense moments, those are the elements Durant brings and the Warriors have missed in The Finals. They’ll take whatever he can give, whatever that might be.   “I would like to think he would make a difference,” Shaun Livingston said. “Again, it’s just any time a player of that caliber comes back or goes out of the lineup, it’s going to be felt certain ways. We’ll see what happens.” And if Durant is unable to play extended minutes or sputters around the floor, making mistakes and dogged by rust and fatigue and inefficiency? Then it’ll fall on his teammates, a group that couldn’t beat the Raptors in two games at Oracle Arena yet somehow must thrive in a Canadian madhouse that awaits Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You’re going to see a resilient Warriors team,” Thompson said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall with this same group. Obviously, it’s a little more daunting being down 3-1 but usually when our backs are against the wall, we respond the best.” Question is, will Durant have their back? Or will he and that wall crumble under pressure from these hungry Raptors and the long odds? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: lifestyleSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019
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Barcelona s fall highlights team s Messi-dependency

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — If Lionel Messi doesn't come to the rescue for Barcelona, no one will. The Argentina forward has saved Barcelona time and time again over his career, coming up with extraordinary goals and incredible assists that have led the club to dozens of titles over the years. And it was his remarkable performance in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals against Liverpool that helped Barcelona overcome an off-night by the rest of the team. Messi scored two goals last week to put Barcelona in position to make it to the final for the first time in four years. But when Barcelona struggled again collectively in the second leg, Messi wasn't able to turn things around. Liverpool reversed the 3-0 loss from the Camp Nou with a spectacular 4-0 win at Anfield, extending Barcelona's European title drought for yet another year. The loss highlighted Barcelona's dependency on Messi, who put in a solid performance but couldn't produce any more epic goals to keep the team in the tournament. "We shouldn't blame anybody," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "We are a team in the good situations and in the bad situations. In the end, it's the coach who has to bear the responsibility." Catalan sports daily Sport called Barcelona's defeat "the worst ridicule in the history" of the club, saying the result in England was "unforgivable." A video reproduced online by Spanish media showed what appeared to be Barcelona fans verbally confronting the team's players at the airport in Liverpool after the match. Valverde rested Messi more than ever this season, knowing how crucial he could be in the decisive moments of the season. He had been key to the team in several occasions, either deciding games as a starter or when coming off the bench. The Argentina playmaker was rattled by Liverpool players from the start on Tuesday, at one point having his head shoved by defender Andrew Robertson as he prepared to get off the ground. Messi had a few good moments, though, including two great throughballs that Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez squandered in front of the goal. Philippe Coutinho also had an opportunity off an assist from Messi but couldn't capitalize on it. Messi missed a good chance himself, one that he would not normally miss, with the ball by his feet inside the area, but he couldn't get a shot on goal. Still, he had the most attempts for Barcelona, with two being stopped by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Barcelona had been mostly outplayed against Liverpool in the first leg, but Messi still scored twice to give his team the advantage. It was Ousmane Dembele who had the chance to add to Barcelona's result in that match, failing to score in a late counterattack that was started by Messi. The defense also faltered at Anfield, with Alba's mistakes being mostly to blame for two of Liverpool's goals. Barcelona also couldn't survive Messi's ordinary performance in the team's elimination against Roma last season, when it squandered a three-goal first-half advantage in the quarterfinals. "What hurts the most is that it has happened again," Valverde said. "I think it will take a long time for us to put this behind us." It had been a nearly perfect season for Messi and Barcelona so far, with the playmaker putting up some of the best numbers of his career and the club reaching the final stretch of the season with a chance to win the treble. Barcelona has already won the Spanish league, and it has a chance to win the Copa del Rey in a final against Valencia on May 25. But there will be no fifth Champions League trophy this year for Messi, who had promised at the beginning of the season "to do everything we can to bring that beautiful and coveted cup" back to Barcelona. Maybe next year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

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Gun-toting Firemen. A Stroke of Genius, or a Bad Idea?

In his speech during the 28th anniversary of the Bureau of Fire Protection’s (BFP) founding, President Rodrigo Duterte made an unusual suggestion. According to an August 01, 2019 article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (INQ), Duterte told his audience of firefighters “Pa-issuehan ko kayo ng baril, kayong mga bumbero. Pagkatapos ng tubig, tao naman ang hanapin ninyo” [I will have guns issued to you firemen. After the water, go hunt for people]. Duterte, the article noted, went on to say, “You help in the maintenance of peace and order…make it safe for everybody”........»»

Category: newsSource:  philnewsRelated NewsAug 19th, 2019

Poor Epifanio

  I GOT a headache listening to the Senate hearing on traffic and how to undo those jams that make EDSA a daily nightmare. Which is unfair to EDSA – you’re in la-la-land if you think our traffic woes are confined to EDSA. Poor Mr. Epifanio de los Santos, to have his name dragged through […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsAug 15th, 2019

PBA: Terrence Jones pinpoints defense as main issue in TNT collapse

Talk N' Text was essentially 12 minutes away from holding a 3-2 lead in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals.  The KaTropa had a commanding 16-point advantage in the opening moments of fourth quarter and appeared primed to regain the advantage in the conference-ending series.  Instead, Talk N' Text saw that advantage disappear, allowing the San Miguel Beermen to steal Game 5, 99-94, and move one win away from yet another championship.  In the final stretch of the game, with the Beermen breathing down their necks, the KaTropa had a number of chances to create a bit of separation but just couldn't convert on their chances.  What's more is that they could not stop the SMB onslaught on the defensive end, which was the main concern for KaTropa import Terrence Jones.  "We just didn’t get stops when we needed to," Jones said following the loss. "We needed two more stops and we didn’t, so that’s what happens. We lost." Jones, the newly-crowned Best Import of the conference, was his usual dominant self, putting up 35 points, pulling down 17 rebounds, and dishing out eight assists.  In crunch time however, Jones was unable to finish on a couple of chances that could have swung the game in their favor.  "It was a well-fought game. They made their runs and we made ours, we just got to try to make sure we take care of business next game," he added.  When the question of fatigue was brought up, Jones maintained that it was simply all about getting the necessary stops to close out the game.  "I’m not a person that makes excuses, so, it just comes down to stops to win the game, and they scored and we didn’t." "We just didn’t score, man. I mean, I got to where I wanted to, where I’ve been shooting my lay-ups from, on the left side, most of the series, it just didn’t go in, and we didn’t get stops. Winning championships is about defense. We had the lead, and we gave it up by not getting stops. I think that’s what it boils down to, and we got to make sure we take care of that in the entire fourth quarter so it doesn’t come down to that," he continued. In the final period, Jones was held to just three points, and while he did credit the Beermen for their defense, it was the KaTropa's defense, or lack thereof, during the closing sequences that Jones feels needs to be addressed.  "Mainly, importantly to me is our defense. We were up with a double-digit lead in the fourth and gave that away, which even caused us to be in that situation, which is more of the bigger standpoint to me, and hopefully we can take care of that." Now down in a 3-2 hole, the KaTropa are in do-or-die mode from here on out, and the former Houston Rocket made it clear that he wasn't ready to go down.  "Exactly like you said, either win or be done, and I’m not ready to be done. I hope my teammates aren’t ready to be done, and we come in and we play with that attitude," Game 6 will be on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 14th, 2019

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